Marc Ambinder, politics editor of The Atlantic, explains that there exists a general perception among theorists and policy planners in the Pentagon’s policy shop that General McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy has failed to sustain Hamid Karzai’s government in critical areas and is therefore destined to ultimately fail. “This is not how the war is supposed to be going. . .” So, why isn’t the war going as planned? Maybe we should assess the counterinsurgency effort from President Karzai’s perspective and focus less on our Americo-centric point of view. What is President Karzai’s counterinsurgency strategy? President Karzai’s “clear-hold-build-consolidate” approach to counterinsurgency is…Read More
Two recent articles in the Washington Post and Time magazine describe the political realities faced by the U.S. military, when participating in local politics in Nangahar province, in eastern Afghanistan. Both articles go to great length to describe what many would perceive to be another example of a failed local engagement strategy—and both articles fail to shed light on the grassroots political dynamics in play. According to both, in late January, select elders of the Shinwari, a Pashtun tribe in eastern Nangarhar province, approached U.S. military officials and offered to confront militants operating in their territory. They would also punish…Read More
Read Noah Coburn’s Connecting with Kabul. The information contained in this report is invaluable for the practitioner of population-centric COIN looking for insights into the importance of local patronage networks in Afghanistan. While Coburn’s work focuses strictly on Afghanistan, similarities in patterns of social networking behavior can be found in other traditional societies. I personally witnessed many of the same characteristics highlighted by Coburn in the patronage networks of the Anbar tribal awakening movement while serving as the Tribal Advisor to the Multi-National Forces-West in 2005-2007. Coburn explains: Afghan parliamentarians are first and foremost members of local patronage networks, which…Read More
Reality in Afghanistan (or in any other country for that matter) isn’t a template of do’s and don’ts. Reality is something that military units and the local inhabitants in specific areas create for themselves. I recently read a number of manuscripts by the constructivist scholar Alexander Wendt. The takeaway from Wendt’s work? The only reality that exists is the one we socially construct for ourselves and others of like mind. There exists no one reality that can be accessed through empirical research. And, we can’t be sure that the reality we observe exists independently of our observation of it. All…Read More
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